I receive emails and messages frequently from strangers around the world seeking advice for how to improve their marriage relationship. I can’t say I hold some kind of secret sauce to happily ever after, but I do personally enjoy a very healthy and fruitful relationship with my spouse. If asked our secret, I could mention a handful of things we do or don’t do. If I had to come up with just one word to take to the heart of marriage, it would probably be selflessness, but even that isn’t the key. As I thought about what made our union so blissful, the many key components aside, I realized there was one factor that I believed was responsible.
Even when I speak of selfless behavior, this isn’t something we came up with on our own, or even reached by trial and error. Though, building a life with someone is certainly that. It’s moments built upon days, set up into weeks, with the years racing by, where you do acquire a certain familiarity and ease of being together.
My husband said earlier at our dinner date, “I’ll bet this pandemic showed a lot of people what their marriages were made of.”
Or not made of, sadly. I mean, moments stacked up into weeks, and then passing years can be a dreadful experience if you don’t particularly like the other person. I can honestly say I love my spouse more and more, each and every day. Just when I think I couldn’t love him more… I do. So what gives?
I treat my husband the way I would want to be treated, and he is the same. He is gentle with my feelings, considerate and kind. When anger tries to gather in either of our minds, we have the wherewithal to pause, consider the other’s feelings, and not just react, but react in love. We didn’t get this from a marriage conference or life coach.
I serve my husband in love, and he serves me in return. He doesn’t serve me out of obligation, and I don’t serve him based on some religious idea. We don’t follow a traditional family unit because that’s what’s worked for others. I consider him greater than myself, and he considers me greater than himself. We place the need of one another above our personal needs or desires, and yet mutually we both get what we need in the relationship. Selfless love. Dear Abby didn’t suggest the idea.
I don’t compare. I don’t compare my man to other men, and he doesn’t compare me to other women. We don’t covet the relationships of others. We feed our own. But I also don’t compare myself to him. I don’t place our roles on a scale of justice, weighing one contribution against another. Neither does he. I don’t concern myself with what he’s not doing. I’m too busy being grateful for the things he does do. I don’t keep a tally of who does more in the relationship. That would take my eyes off the gift of doing for him. It would blind me to all the tiny, selfless acts he offers each and every day. No human counselor offered this advice.
I am too busy looking in the mirror to find fault in his reflection. I focus on being a better me, and he does the same. I water my own grass, I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I never let the sun set on my anger. Heck, I just don’t get angry much. Nope, it’s not a miracle chill pill. It’s the Fruit of the Spirit.
All the things I’ve mentioned I don’t do, or the many wonderful things my husband does do, these are all fruits that have sprung up in our marriage because we abide in the vine. To put it plainly, we follow the example of Jesus, and that makes us better for one another. Heck, if it was up to just me, I’d be a horrible wife. My hormones are a mess, I tend to be an absolute control freak, and I cannot understand people who don’t like their ducks in a row. If it were up to me, I’d likely expect perfection in a man, but I learned early on that my happiness isn’t found in this world alone. My joy is complete in Heavenly places, and that takes a load off the chaos down here.
Early in our marriage we began a journey of getting to know Jesus better, and I now realize that is the absolute best thing we did not only for ourselves, but for each other. The teachings of Jesus found in the Bible are the best life hack you will ever find. The words in red teach me how to be a better partner, a selfless friend, a giving wife, a gentle lover, a peaceable person, and an understanding spouse. They teach me not only how to love, but how to love well. Every day is spent in the Word, and because of this dedication to living and loving like Jesus, my marriage blossoms under that care. Our relationship is like a well-watered vineyard, bursting forth with good fruit. It’s not us, really, but rather our ability to live out what scripture teaches.
Of importance and worth mentioning, you can’t just read a few verses out of Ephesians and call it a day. You can’t attend a marriage conference at your church and expect a life change overnight. It turns out that the entire story of God’s love from beginning to end, on each and every page, in each parable and Old Testament lesson, lays the foundation for learning to love like Him. It’s a day by day taking in of the truth, a daily listening to the Holy Spirit, and a continuous surrendering of self to His ways. To be a good spouse is to follow Jesus. To have a happy marriage is to build your life on His purposes, abiding in His love, and not trying to fill your heart with anything less than the true love of Christ. To love the Lord, like, really love the Lord, is the only way to love your spouse as you should, and to be loved by them like you deserve.
My husband is an amazing husband because he seeks Christ. His relationship with me simply overflows from that. Any good thing I do in my marriage is Spirit led. Like I mentioned before, I’d likely be a pretty naggy and slightly psychotic wife if not for the patience, kindness, good temperance, and love the Spirit fills my heart with on the daily as I surrender my life to Him.
I never want to be one of those preachy, self-righteous, overly religious, or pious people who claim to know the secret to a happy life. Heck, I’m still learning as I go, a work in progress, if you will. All I know is, I love my husband, I love my marriage, and I love my life. I wouldn’t change one thing about it. I am not just content, I am supremely blessed, living my own fairy tale it feels like. And when I look around for a reason for my bliss, or the cause of such happiness, I know without a doubt it’s our decision to grow close to Jesus that has drawn us so perfectly close to one another. No secret sauce, but certainly a great recipe for a happy married life.